Patience is a virtue they say…..

28 05 2016

I wish I could say a whole bunch of stuff I’ve started is finished….. but I can’t. Even Matt my neighbour thinks I’ve entered a state of Zen…


Ready for action…

Having now discovered my new batteries take 3.5 litres of Potassium Hydroxide electrolyte each (140L in total – I was originally under the impression they needed 1.2L each, but apparently they’ve improved the design) and being unable to access distilled water anywhere in Tasmania in that sort of quantity, I decided to make a solar still and make my own…….. but if those results are what Tasmania has in store for me with respect to solar power, I will give up.  My still made a cupful of distilled water on one sunny day.  I now wish I had taken the advice of one of my readers and bought a reverse osmosis filter setup, but such is life.  Matt has rescued me once again, and I’m taking 40L batches of his filtered rainwater from his kitchen.  His roof’s brand new, and with Tassie having the cleanest air in the world, I figured I would take the chance, especially after a local told me he’d been doing this for years with no negative repercussions…

Mixing the electrolyte is a slow and tedious process.  You have to add the KOH flakes to the water (and definitely not the other way around…) very slowly.  I stir it with the supplied thermometer, and the liquid quickly heats up to 50 and even 60 degrees.  And if you are too cavalier with this process, the ensuing exothermic reaction can bite you in the butt and start boiling covering the operator with highly caustic stuff!  Which is why I of course wear the supplied rubber apron, heavy duty gloves, and eye protection.  Once or twice, the electrolyte started hissing at me, causing a few steps backwards to occur…… not for the faint hearted, but it’s all fine really.

Using the supplied hydrometer, the specific gravity (SG) of the electrolyte has to be monitored until it’s bang on 1.21.  Put too much KOH in, and you have to add more distilled water, which I had to do once so far.

I’ve just mixed another 40L, and I’ll wait until it cools overnight before filling the next 12 or so cells such a batch will do.  I still don’t have my 100A slow burn fuses anyway, they go in that box (a fused interrupt switch actually) with the blue vertical stripes. I’m definitely going to have to make a list of all these people I’m waiting for, before I forget who they are..!!

All the batteries are now on a custom made stand. The wiring is all but finished, needing20160528_113511 the aforementioned fuses to close the final circuit; once the batteries are full of course. Once the filling process is over, all those battery terminals get covered to make sure it’s impossible to short them.  I’m rather pleased with how it all turned out, looks quite professional……

The pile of timber in the shed has grown, but I haven’t seen the sawmillers in well over a week, I have no idea what’s happening on that front either.  There are seven logs left to mill, and one of them is too large for me to roll towards the mill on my own.

20160528_115613Last weekend, Trev the excavator operator turned up and started scraping topsoil off the base clay, stockpiling it in huge growing mounds…. and also found loads of floaters (rocks to you) which no doubt Glenda will find use for as landscaping material once the house is built.  The machine had only been going for one hour when its bottom radiator hose burst, silencing it for good.  Trev was back today, but must have had the wrong part…. all 12cm of it.  It’s still sitting exactly where it stopped a week ago. Such is life…. all good things come to those who wait.  But a bit more action would be nice…..

Earlier this week, mother nature turned on an amazing frosty show…. coldest morning I’ve seen here yet, -1.5C in the shed, making it hard to get out of bed…..  but out of bed I did get, the sunrise alone was worth putting on four layers and breaking out the down jacket!


View “from the bedroom”


Across the road

We can fix it….

28 05 2016


Mark Cochrane

Another gem from Mark Cochrane….

It is simply human nature I guess to forever fight to maintain the status quo if we cannot improve upon it, in a shortsighted manner. It is reasonable to question whether any problematic situation is simply a momentary problem that can be ignored over the long run or is just a minor correction that can be compensated for with a tweak here and there, but there is rarely if ever a serious consideration of changing economic or social course voluntarily. Politicians cannot sell pain to the masses even if they can consider it themselves.

The latest example I saw today was from India.

India to ‘divert rivers’ to tackle drought

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said transferring water, including from major rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, to drought-prone areas is now her government’s top priority.

At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India.

The drought is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of India, with temperatures in excess of 40C.

The Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) has 30 links planned for water-transfer, 14 of them fed by Himalayan glaciers in the north of the country and 16 in peninsular India.

Environmentalists have opposed the project, arguing it will invite ecological disaster but the Supreme Court has ordered its implementation.

What could possibly go wrong with this? Since no studies have been done no one really knows but there are good reasons to suspect there will be many problems. Taking polluted or poisoned waters from diminished rivers such as the Ganges (link) and spreading them across the land or into other river courses is unlikely to greatly benefit the recipients or the dying rivers. However, given that India has had poor monsoon rains the last two years and is questionably facing its worst-ever water crisis (link), it is not surprising that there are efforts to appear to be doing great things to address the problems. Even if the rivers can be harnessed to support strained agricultural and power needs, despite the ecological costs, it does little to address the underlying problems of melting ice in the Himalayan headwaters or the rapidly draining aquifers. Those aquifers currently supply 85% of the nation’s drinking water but levels are dropping in 56% of the country (link).

India has a population of 1.3 billion and growing. Soon, years like 2016 will become the norm for water availability unless serious adaptations and mitigation efforts are made. However, instead of making serious efforts to improve efficiency of the woefully inadequate water systems, there will be a major effort to ‘fix’ everything with some massive crony-funding projects that will further impact the region’s ecosystems while doing little to manage the real problems of population and changing hydrology.

India is not unique in this though. You can look at China’s Three Gorges dam, Brazil’s massive efforts to install hundreds of dams across the Amazon, Ethiopia’s damming the Blue Nile above Egypt’s existing Aswan Dam or the United States dams and project including its (mis-) management of the Colorado river for examples of trying to engineer solutions to water/energy scarcity. Water is much more precious than oil when scarcity bites.

Whether we are talking about water, oil, fish or anything else the question is always how to get more instead of how to need less. Regardless of rules, treaties, or laws, expect the grab for resources to increase as true scarcity looms. This will likely hold true with climate change as well since ‘geoengineering’ is always in the wings as the proposed cure to our current ills. Why us less water when we can potentially make it rain more (here), or cut greenhouse gas emissions when we can make more clouds to keep it cooler (at what cost?).

I’ve got an engineering degree of my own and so I understand the Siren’s song of a technological ‘fix’. It is a strategy that has worked well for us for a long time now. It can still work well if we just set the parameters and incentives right. Challenge people to do more with less and they will. We need to get off of the uncontrolled ‘growth’ of consumption at all cost mantra and move to one more like continued growth in well-being of human populations and ecosystems. On a finite world there really isn’t another sustainable option.